By KATHY KORENGEL
EDMONDS — As Florida officials deliberate over whose ballot should or should not be counted, a former Edmonds man stationed in Virginia was relieved to find his absentee ballot was counted in Snohomish County, even though it was late.
And Sgt. Jeffrey Silsbee said he had a special interest in making sure his ballot got home, at least on the second attempt.
"We fly the guy (the president)," Silsbee said in a telephone interview. Silsbee is part of a Marine Corps unit that operates Marine One, a helicopter used to transport the president.
Silsbee, 38, said he mailed his absentee ballot Nov. 6 at the post office on his base. The next day, he got a phone call from his eldest son telling him that his ballot had been returned to him.
Return envelopes for Snohomish County absentee ballots have an address on both sides of the envelope. One side lists the county auditor’s office, to which the ballots need to be sent. The back side has the address of the voter, as well as a signature line. Silsbee’s ballot had inadvertently been sent back to his home address.
Silsbee said he couldn’t get home to mail the ballot by the Nov. 7 deadline, so he took it back to his local post office Nov. 8.
"I was fully intent on blaming the post office for the foul-up," Silsbee said.
But when post office staff showed him how his return address looked like a mailing address, he changed his mind.
"My state screwed up," Silsbee said. "There’s absolutely no reason for my address to be on the envelope."
Scott Konopasek, election manager for the Snohomish County auditor’s office, said it’s not that simple.
Konopasek explained that the voter’s address and signature are listed on the back of the return envelopes so that elections staff can match the voter’s information and signature against what’s on file here as quickly as possible.
"We get about 130,000 absentee ballots that we need to verify signatures on. If we opened each one, we’d never get them processed in time," Konopasek said.
He also said that the side of the envelope with the auditor’s address has a bar code that signifies to postal machines that it is the correct mailing address.
Konopasek said that if the return envelopes are sorted by hand the bar code can be overlooked. He added that in his four years with the auditor’s office, he has heard of such errors happening "very rarely."
In the end, Silsbee’s vote was counted, Konopasek said, even though it was postmarked late.
When Silsbee’s ballot was sent late by Federal Express, a note was attached explaining why the ballot had been delayed.
"We bought his explanation," Konopasek said, giving the reason why Silsbee’s ballot was counted.
Silsbee said he was glad that the process worked.
He added that "if I didn’t vote, whoever takes office on January 21, I can’t complain about who it is."
Konopasek said people who think their late absentee ballot should be counted have until 10 a.m. WednesdayN to make the request. Call the elections office at 425-388-3444 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
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